AS­TON MARTIN

STRIKES EARLY

Motor Sport News - - Headline News - By Rob Lad­brook

A tac­ti­cal mas­ter­stroke from the TF Sport team en­sured that Jonathan Adam be­gan his de­fence of the Bri­tish GT ti­tle in the best pos­si­ble fash­ion, af­ter he and Derek John­ston tri­umphed in a tur­bu­lent sea­son-opener at Brands Hatch.

While the re­sult boils down to an­other As­ton Martin vic­tory at Brands Hatch, and a sec­ond Bri­tish GT cham­pi­onship race win in a row for Tom Fer­rier’s TF op­er­a­tion, on pure pace it could so eas­ily have been a dif­fer­ent re­sult.

Bent­ley re­turned to Bri­tish GT in Kent af­ter a year away. And Rick Parfitt Jr and Seb Mor­ris very nearly blew the com­pe­ti­tion away, but some con­tro­versy and plain bad luck ru­ined their party.

The Con­ti­nen­tal GT3 may not be the dain­ti­est ma­chine on the grid, but its com­bi­na­tion of strong aero­dy­nam­ics and out­right grunt made it a for­mi­da­ble prospect on the fast sweeps of Brands.

AMR’S Van­tage GT3 has al­ways ex­celled on the GP ex­ten­sion, but the Bent­ley bet­tered it in the speed traps. Team Parker Rac­ing’s fac­tory part­ner­ship with Bent­ley meant its Con­ti­nen­tal was de­liv­ered along with a help­ful stack of set-up data on the Pirelli tyres, on which the car did al­most all of its de­vel­op­ment over the last two years in the Blanc­pain GT Se­ries. The team es­ti­mated 5000 miles of test­ing had been done with ‘Ge­of­frey’ pre-sea­son.

Parfitt topped the Ama­teur driver sec­tion of qual­i­fy­ing by a com­fort­able mar­gin for pro­vi­sional pole. His pace was backed up by Mor­ris, who banged in the quick­est time of the Pro seg­ment on his first fly­ing lap.

“We didn’t ex­pect that at all,” said Parfitt af­ter pole was se­cured. “We knew the Bent­ley would be good, but we didn’t ex­pect it here as it’s an As­ton track. The Bent­ley tends to spin its wheels in the slow stuff due to its power, but we got the set-up bang on for this one. Seb has also taught me to rely more on the aero of the car, and that’s done won­ders for my con­fi­dence through the quick stuff.”

Jon Min­shaw and Phil Keen’s new Bar­well Lam­borgh­ini started sec­ond, ahead of John­ston and Adam.

Pace in qual­i­fy­ing is one thing, but to back it up in the race is quite an­other. But Parfitt and Mor­ris looked ev­ery inch like win­ners dur­ing the early stages as Parfitt roared into an early lead. His cause was helped when Min­shaw was clipped by a GT4 car and pit­ted with a punc­ture and sus­pen­sion dam­age, leav­ing Parfitt well clear of John­ston’s As­ton. John­ston com­plained of a lack of grip from his tyres mid-stint, which al­lowed Liam Grif­fin in the sec­ond Huracan to slip past. But nei­ther could live with the pace of Parfitt, un­til the race was turned on its head af­ter 40 min­utes.

Phil Dry­burgh was at the wheel of the Mo­tor­base As­ton when he was in­volved in an in­ci­dent with the GT4 Ginetta of Nick Jones and the GT4 As­ton of Matthew Gra­ham at Pil­grims Drop. Dry­burgh’s As­ton was tipped onto the grass be­fore it dug in and rolled across the bar­rier ( see Rac­ing News). The race was im­me­di­ately neu­tralised us­ing the new Code 80 rule, which lim­its cars to 80km/h (50mph) at all times in­stead of us­ing a safety car.

Parfitt was 14 sec­onds up the road when the cau­tion was called. When the pit win­dow opened 10 min­utes later, he was just over one sec­ond ahead.

“I don’t know how that worked,” he said, be­mused. “I thought every­body was sup­posed to run at the same speed, but clearly that hasn’t hap­pened.”

The ma­jor­ity of cars opted to dive into the pits dur­ing the Code 80, lead­ing to a crammed pit­lane as soon as the win­dow opened af­ter 50 min­utes. The Bent­ley was fur­ther im­peded when the Ebor GT Maserati blocked ac­cess to its fuel rig. The race-long lead­ers found them­selves back in fourth once Mor­ris re­joined.

TF Sport didn’t pit, opt­ing to leave John­ston out for a few ex­tra laps be­fore stop­ping right be­fore the end of the cau­tion.

“We were al­ways go­ing to run Derek’s car a bit longer to avoid queu­ing both cars for fuel, but it turned out to be the per­fect strat­egy,” said Fer­rier. “The race came to us nicely from there on.”

John­ston handed over to Adam, and the reign­ing cham­pion re­joined at the head of the pack with a hand­ful of sec­onds over Fabio Babini, who had taken over the Lambo from Grif­fin, and Joe Os­borne in the AMD BMW Z4 that Lee Mowle had ably ghosted up the or­der in the first stint.

Os­borne dived past Babini early on af­ter the restart, which caught the stew­ards’ at­ten­tion. Os­borne then be­gan pil­ing the pres­sure on Adam, who had taken brand new tyres at the stop. Adam held on for two laps un­til the Pirellis started to bite, and from then on the race as a con­test was over as Adam thrived on the fresh rub­ber and pulled a com­fort­able gap.

Mor­ris de­posed Babini, and soon latched on to Os­borne for sec­ond. The older BMW strug­gled to hold off the thun­der­ing Bent­ley on the straights, but Os­borne de­fended su­perbly. His job was made eas­ier when the race was stopped 20 min­utes early when Luke Daven­port’s Ginetta G55 GT3 pulled off the track with flames lick­ing around it.

“I was ac­tu­ally glad to see the red flags,” said Os­borne. “I could only see us go­ing back­wards as the Bent­ley was just too quick on the straights for us.”

Sadly it wasn’t to last as Os­borne was pinged post-race for pass­ing Babini un­der yel­lows and pe­nalised 10 sec­onds, drop­ping the car to fourth.

While an in­her­ited sec­ond was a good re­sult for Parfitt and Mor­ris, the Bent­ley per­haps de­served more. “We can’t help but feel a bit robbed,” added

Mor­ris. “But if you’d of­fered us pole and sec­ond be­fore the start of the week­end we’d have taken it.”

But noth­ing could take the shine off Adam and John­ston’s week­end. “The car just felt great and the team called it per­fectly,” said Adam. “Tak­ing new tyres was a bit of a gam­ble on the stop, but it was to­tally the right de­ci­sion once they came in. To be hon­est I didn’t even know I was in the lead when I came out of the pits af­ter all of the Code 80 con­fu­sion. It’s a great re­sult.”

Grif­fin/babini in­her­ited third from Mowle/os­borne. A su­perb re­cov­ery drive from the Beechdean Mo­tor­sport As­ton of An­drew Howard and Ross Gunn net­ted fifth. The car started last as Howard was un­able to qual­ify on Satur­day due to his com­mit­ments rac­ing in the Euro­pean Le Mans Se­ries. The sec­ond TF Sport As­ton of Mark Farmer and Jon Barnes com­pleted the top six.

Gra­ham John­son and Mike Robin­son claimed the GT4 race vic­tory for Op­ti­mum Mo­tor­sport af­ter guid­ing their Ginetta to a com­fort­able vic­tory.

The pair ini­tially had a great fight on their hands, but trou­bles for their ri­vals helped the duo get well clear fol­low­ing the pit win­dow.

John­son/robin­son had to play sec­ond best to the Cen­tury Mo­tor­sport crew of Anna Walewska and Nathan Freke in qual­i­fy­ing af­ter Freke pulled out a won­der lap late in the ses­sion. “I don’t know how we did the time,” he said. “We per­haps ran the car a bit too mar­ginal on fuel and when you get a fuel surge the ECU cuts all the power, so it was stut­ter­ing around Druids, but some­how held to­gether.”

Given her lack of lead­ing races at this level, Walewska did an ad­mirable job in the open­ing stages, but couldn’t hold off John­son, who vaulted ahead on lap two and be­gan to forge a gap as Walewska headed a tight train for sec­ond in­volv­ing Jack Bartholomew’s As­ton and Wil­liam Phillips’ Ginetta.

Bartholomew jumped ahead to chase John­son just be­fore the Code 80 was called, but un­know­ingly lost a lot of time dur­ing the cau­tion, which left Robin­son well clear af­ter he’d taken over the lead car.

“I stuck to 80km/h, but I’m not sure the en­tire gird un­der­stood the new rule,” said John­son. “Other cars be­hind didn’t go as quickly as they should and I found my­self with a big gap and was won­der­ing where ev­ery­one had gone. I won’t com­plain as it made it com­fort­able for us.”

Bartholomew handed over to Jor­dan Al­bert in sec­ond place, but a skip through the Pad­dock Hill gravel when rac­ing re­sumed dropped the Beechdean Van­tage down to fifth at the flag.

That opened the door for Freke to shine in the clos­ing stages, and he quickly worked his way into a se­cure sec­ond place ahead of Jor­dan Stilp, who had taken over the G55 from Phillips, and Jamie Chad­wick/matthew Ge­orge’s Gen­er­a­tion AMR Van­tage. ■

Parfitt led most of the race in ‘Ge­of­frey’ GT3

Adam/john­ston (left) kept it clean and snatched vic­tory for TF team

John­son and Robin­son pulled clear to snatch GT4 vic­tory in Ginetta

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